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I'm busy perfecting a bread recipe/technique so in the meantime I'm happy to share that I've finally gotten the chance to get out to eat in the last month.

Mad Donna's
I was fortunate enough to attend a special tasting event at Mad Donna's and it's a good thing because it's never really been on my radar. And that's too bad because there are a few reasons it should've been and is now:

1. Macaroni and cheese--several kinds to choose from!

2. Crispy sweet potato fries

3. A huge menu with lots of vegetarian options (as well as gluten-free options)

4. Brunch! (Wish I'd known this during the many times I've waited--and waited and waited--for a table down the street at Marche).

Mad Donna's is kid-friendly downstairs and has a pretty cool space upstairs. Check their website for their awesome daily specials and events. If I lived in the neighborhood, I'd be a regular.

Menu sampling!

A group of us digging into some fried ice cream

Mad Donna's
1313 Woodland Street
Nashville, TN 37206
(615) 226-1617
Open every day except Monday; brunch on Saturday and Sunday

Smiling Elephant
I'd heard about Smiling Elephant for a while but I figured that it'd be just like all the other Thai restaurants in town. They're all good so what's the point in driving all the way over to 8th Avenue South? But one night, we had some time and we stopped in.

Let me sum it up this way: Smiling Elephant will change your life.

Wow, so good. And different! Not the standard pre-fried tofu splashed in some sauce (not that there's anything wrong with that). And not the standard dishes either. A smaller menu than some places but all dishes thoughtfully prepared. And fresh. I got the dinner "set" which included soup, entree and dessert (and a bonus ginger tea!). The soups are vegetarian and just about any entree can be made with tofu so you can imagine I was quite pleased. Mr. Eats actually ordered vegetarian food, too so that we could share! And everything was fantastic.

Smiling Elephant is a small space. Even at 8pm on a Monday, it's busy so plan your first visit for an off time so you can really enjoy it.

Vegetarian lemongrass soup

Tamarind tofu and ginger tofu--couldn't decide which I liked better!

Smiling Elephant
2213 8th Avenue South (across from Fiddlecakes and just south of Wedgewood and Zanie's)

Nashville, TN 37204
(615) 891-4488
Closed for lunch Saturday and all day Sunday

NY Pie
It's no secret to friends and family that I love New York style pizza. I like Neapolitan, too but I really love good NY style slice that you can fold and eat. House of Pizza in the Arcade and Joey's House of Pizza in Brentwood are my favorites locally but are nearly impossible for me to get to due to my West Nashville location.

So I was pretty excited to see the sign for NY Pie go up over in Nashville West. Though I was a bit skeptical. I've had some pretty mediocre pizza in Nashville and Porta Via has been my go-to pizza since it opened. It's great, but it's Neapolitan.

So on a chilly Tuesday night, my friend and I and Baby Eats stopped in around 6pm to try it out. First things first, the place is BUSY and small. They could easily fill up a space twice the size they have now. So when you want to try it, you may be best off getting takeout.

Now the important part. The pizza is great! Very reminiscent of my favorite pizza, John's of Bleecker Street. The only thing they lack is RC on tap (no, really--RC on tap at John's--YUM!). There are a lot of specialty pizzas on the menu, but I got the basic cheese and really enjoyed it. My friend got the margarita and let me have a slice and it was good as well--a slightly sweeter and thicker tomato sauce to make it different from the standard slice (along with the chopped basil and fresh mozzarella).

Speaking of slice, the menu indicates it's available by the slice, but I didn't see any pricing. I just got the 10 inch for $6.50 and though I shouldn't have, I ate the whole thing. The edge of the crust was a bit thicker and fluffier than a real NY slice, but it worked out well for me because I shared it with Baby Eats. Not all pizzas are like that--each pizza is hand-tossed (right in front of you!) and different from the last, so some pizzas may have a thicker edge. Small price to pay for a great hand-made pizza.

NY Pie is locally owned and operated and really care about the pizza they're making (asking each customer what they thought about the pizza once the crowd slowed enough for them to breathe). Sorry--no pictures; tight squeeze in the place and I didn't want to be too conspicuous. But trust me--it's a great-looking and authentic New York style "pie."

NY Pie
6800 Charlotte Pike, Suite 105 (Nashville West in the middle section, Charlotte side of the street)
Nashville, TN 37209
(615) 915-1617

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Seems sinful, doesn't it? The utter anti-thesis of the no-white diet that I've observed about 75% of the time for the last decade. But sometimes you just have to indulge.

Most recipes for a pasta with potatoes involves a nice linguine, pesto, some sort of bean or pea and peeled red potatoes. But the inspiration for me was this tidy little package of Tasteful Selections Honey Gold potatoes I picked up at Publix last week. These potatoes have a beautiful yellow center and have a delicate texture. I'm not the biggest fan of pesto (and certainly not of the storebought pesto I keep on hand "just in case"), so I didn't want to overpower these potatoes with that flavor. I wanted to highlight it. I also had some conchiglie from Lazzaroli that I thought would be the perfect accompaniment (inspired by an entree I had at City House that was not as good as it could have been). So I decided to experiment, but keep it simple. And it worked!

Pasta with Roasted Potatoes in Truffle Oil
serves 2

1/2 pound of Tasteful Selections Honey Gold potatoes (or baby Yukon Gold or fingerling potatoes)
1/2 pound shaped pasta (conchiglie or orecchiette or another small but sturdy shape)
~4 tbps truffle oil (to taste)
1 tsp minced garlic (fresh or pre-minced)
~a handful of finely grated parmigiano reggiano
sea salt, pepper and herbs de Provence (optional) to taste

Preheat your oven to 400F. Wash and cut the potatoes (skin on) into small, ~1/2 inch cubes. Transfer to a roasting dish and drizzle with ~1 tablespoon or so of truffle oil. Sprinkle with salt and roast for 40 minutes.

When there's about 20 minutes left for roasting, start to boil the pasta. The pasta for this dish should not be al dente but should instead be soft.

Once the potatoes have roasted, remove the pan from the oven and stir in the garlic (it will cook slightly when it meets the roasting dish). When the pasta has finished cooking, drain it and add to the potatoes in the dish. Stir in the cheese and add more truffle oil, salt, pepper and a dash of herbs de Provence.

I think the truffle oil was the perfect complement to the potatoes and the soft pasta provided just enough of a difference in texture to make it interesting. If you have some on hand, roasted or sauteed oyster or shiitake mushrooms would also taste wonderful mixed in with this dish.

This is simple and easy to make, but packed with flavor (particularly when you use good potatoes and good cheese). If you're in Nashville, Tom over at Lazzaroli doesn't always have conchiglie on hand, but call ahead and he may put some back for you. It's really the perfect pasta for this meal.

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I'm disappointed that this year, Trader Joe's is not carrying the orange cardamom cookies and the fleur de sel caramels. I'm cycling through the stages of grief, actually. However, they do have some delicious egg nog cookies. I don't love egg nog, but these cookies are fantastic.

So I decided to try to make them. Which is odd since I generally don't make anything that someone else can make better and cheaper than I can. Anyhoo, I searched all over the internet and one recipe kept popping up. It seems it is from the Mrs. Fields Cookie Book.

Fun fact: Debbi Fields is now Debbi Fields Rose and lives in Memphis, Tennessee (my hometown). She's married to Mike Rose, former chairman of the Holiday Inn corporation (also born in Memphis!).

The dough for this cookie actually tastes better than the cookie, so I made a couple of changes to make it a bit noggier after baking. And some additional spices to liven them up.

Eggnog Cookies
adapted from Mrs. Fields

2 1/4 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 heaping tablespoon of chai latte mix*
1 1/4 cups sugar
3/4 cup softened butter
1/2 cup eggnog
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup Gosling's black seal rum**
2 egg yolks
additional nutmeg for sprinkling

*if you don't have chai latte mix, add another 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom, 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger, and 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
**or bourbon, depending on what you like. Gosling's has a molasses-y flavor that really worked well for this.

Preheat oven to 300F.

In a medium bowl combine flour, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg and chai spices; mix well with a wire whisk and set aside.

In a large bowl, cream sugar and butter with an electric mixer. Add eggnog, vanilla, rum and egg yolks and beat at medium speed until smooth. Add the dry ingredients and beat at low speed just until combined.

Scoop rounded teaspoons and form into balls and place onto ungreased baking sheets, 1″ apart. Press down lightly and sprinkle with nutmeg. Bake for 23-25 minutes or until bottoms turn light brown.
Transfer to cool, flat surface immediately with spatula.

For icing, melt white chocolate chips in one corner of a plastic sandwich bag. Microwave until melted. Cut a tiny part of the corner off the bag and drizzle chocoate onto the cookies in a Christmas tree shape for a festive look.

The cookie is soft and chewy and tastes very much like egg nog. It does not, however taste like the delicious Trader Joe's egg nog cookie. It's a decent cookie and very easy to make (particularly if you don't bother to ice it) but not one that's going to knock your socks off unless you really, really like egg nog.